GREATER Manchester Leaders have escalated their response to the cost of living crisis, as new research shows that a majority of residents across the city-region have seen their expenses increase in just the last month.
The latest Greater Manchester Residents Survey, presented to Leaders at last week’s Greater Manchester Combined Authority meeting, also found that almost half of residents would be unable to pay an unexpected emergency expense of £850 – higher than the national average of 30 per cent.
The survey, carried out between 20 October and 3 November, also found that just over a third of mortgage holders are struggling with mortgage payments, while almost half of renters are having difficulty paying rent.
More debt-related enquiries are being made by residents to Citizens Advice, and a third of households in the city-region have borrowed more money or used more credit in the past month compared to the same period in 2021.
The results of the Greater Manchester Residents Survey continue to show that, while a majority of people are affected by rising costs, some residents – including those in already marginalised or minoritised positions – are being hit harder than others. Almost 90 per cent of disabled respondents are worried about their living costs – findings supported by data from Citizens Advice showing that around 60 per cent of Greater Manchester residents who contacted them about benefits and tax credits in the period from April to October were disabled or have a long-term health condition.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “Greater Manchester’s response to the cost of living crisis is being strengthened all the time, and the focus shown by leaders across our local authorities, together with businesses and other partners, has enabled us to coordinate those efforts much more effectively.
“Action is being taken right now to address the diverse impacts of this crisis, from setting up warm spaces throughout our communities, to rolling out the Good Employment Charter to more employers so that they can support more of their workers through these challenging times. The expansion of A Bed Every Night, in partnership with Manchester City Council, means that 86 more beds will now be available this winter, giving people sleeping rough the chance to access vital accommodation and support to get back on their feet.
“Unfortunately, those same communities and businesses across Greater Manchester continue to be impacted by a rail network that is not providing the reliability or the levels of service that our city-region, and the wider North, desperately need. Damage is being done to business investment and to business confidence. This situation can and must be resolved, and we are ready to work in partnership with Government to see that happen.”
Developing Greater Manchester’s response
Right across the city-region, local authorities continue to use their expertise and understanding of local issues to put in place targeted measures to respond to the cost-of-living crisis. Examples include Oldham, where the Council has approved a package of support for residents including £3 million of investment in local services, and Manchester, where a support package of £8 million has been agreed alongside a dedicated Cost of Living Action Plan. Good practice is also being shared between areas so that effective actions can be scaled up or adapted to each locality as appropriate.
More than 300 warm spaces have now been set up across Greater Manchester, and this number is expected to grow in the coming weeks as further funding becomes available. The spaces include all Greater Manchester libraries, which are also all in the process of becoming databanks to offer connectivity to residents needing to access digital services. Residents can find their nearest space at www.warmwelcome.uk or by contacting their local authority.
At a press conference this week, alongside Manchester City Council Leader Cllr Bev Craig and City Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett, Greater Manchester Deputy Mayor and lead for homelessness, the Mayor announced £460,000 of additional funding for the A Bed Every Night scheme to support people experiencing rough sleeping this winter. An extra 86 bed spaces will be added to the existing provision of 520, while flexible funding for an additional 800 bed nights will also be available in response to demand.
Early December will also see a new campaign from Greater Manchester’s Helping Hand initiative, with a focus on supporting people’s mental health and wellbeing. Following extensive consultation with residents about the issues they’re facing, the campaign will provide a range of practical guidance and self-help tips, as well as information on how to access more specialist mental health and wellbeing assistance. The campaign will also remind residents to make sure they’re registered for any benefits for which they are eligible, such as free school meals or pension credit, and will link to the extensive offers all 10 councils are providing through their cost of living response.
In recognition of the potential impact of rising living costs on health and wellbeing, NHS Greater Manchester continues to work with partners such as the GMCA, VCSEs and localities to develop joined-up responses and provide support to individuals and communities adversely impacted. This includes harnessing health and care intelligence to identify those of greater need across the city-region, enabling better access to services, broadening representation of health professionals in the Cost of Living Response Group, the development of Helping Hand, and continued work on wellbeing to ensure communities stay well, warm and safe over the coming months.
The GMCA is also supporting a new scheme being developed by the National Family Centre and Amazon, based on the Big House project in Fife coordinated by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The project uses the local knowledge and networks of charities and the logistics expertise of businesses and retailers to provide surplus goods to thousands of families who need them.
The Brick, a charity based in Wigan, will coordinate the project as it begins in Greater Manchester, supported by the GMCA. The ambition is that, after a period of 9-12 months, the project will become a self-sustaining model that can be replicated across other parts of the country as a whole.
Cllr Amanda Chadderton, Leader of Oldham Council and Greater Manchester Lead for the cost of living crisis, said: “As we enter the winter months the challenges posed by the cost of living crisis are only growing, but across Greater Manchester we are rising to meet that challenge.
“The progress we’ve made, from additional investment for A Bed Every Night to the establishment of 306 warm spaces throughout every district, has been so important – particularly when we see the results of the latest Residents Survey, which continues to shine a spotlight on the impact this crisis is having on people’s lives here in Greater Manchester.
“We’ve gone through a relatively mild autumn, but now the drop in temperature is going to be keenly felt by people here, some of whom will face unimaginable decisions about whether to turn on the heating or feed their families. We will do everything we can, together with all of our partners across the city-region, to put in place support that is both accessible to everyone who might need it, and targeted to address the specific issues that we know people here are facing.”
Supporting businesses in Greater Manchester
Partner organisations across the city-region have continued to develop their response to the impact of the cost of living crisis on businesses, targeting interventions and supporting business owners to manage increased expenses and reduce their energy bills.
The Growth Company’s Business Growth Hub is running the #hereforbusiness campaign, which aims to support businesses to better understand their costs, cashflow, and income patterns, including how to access additional finance support. The Hub has already organised a series of virtual events to help companies develop plans to reduce waste, achieve better returns and support their staff with the rising cost of living. It is also running local events, drop-in clinics and seminars focusing on the energy crisis, finance, and costs.
Earlier this month the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter hosted an event for members focused on how employers can support employees through challenging times, and events were organised during Living Wage Week to encourage more employers to join the 530 businesses in Greater Manchester already accredited by the Real Living Wage Foundation.
Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester Lead for the Economy, said: “It’s clear that the impacts of this crisis on residents and the impacts on local businesses are two sides of the same coin. The more that people’s budgets suffer, the more that impact is felt across our city-region’s economy.
“We know from the month-on-month trends that businesses are anxious about what the future holds. They are trying really hard to stay afloat, to pay their staff, and deliver good services to customers. They are working hard to plan for what is the busiest time of the year, amidst severe external challenges.
“There is, however, some positive news. We recently marked Real Living Wage Week, and 530 businesses across Greater Manchester are now accredited – including in sectors that have traditionally seen more limited uptake – and there are big strides being made in the everyday economy. We’re also seeing increased engagement with our Good Employment Charter, which recognises businesses that offer good wages and conditions for their workers. Together, these developments do give us confidence for the future of our economy.”
Greater Manchester’s Helping Hand online resource helps to guide residents to support in their area on a range of issues, including help with food and energy bills, managing household finances, pension credit top-up, transport costs, mental health and wellbeing – including gambling harms – and digital inclusion.
The #hereforbusiness campaign includes online resources, access to all webinars featuring industry experts, plus contains news on the latest local events across Greater Manchester and where business owners can go for support. There are around 23000 businesses in Greater Manchester employing between 5 – 249 people. These businesses employ around 33% of all working adults in GM.
The GMCA is also supporting local boroughs to provide welcoming and warm spaces throughout the winter period, with libraries, community centres, leisure centres and places of worship set to offer heated areas, hot drinks, and in some cases advice and support to residents.
The Greater Manchester Residents Surveys, wider engagement work, and evidence from other sources will continue to be vital to ensuring that action taken is responsive to people’s needs and targeted to those who require it.
Greater Manchester Residents Survey
Results from the latest Greater Manchester Residents’ Survey are available at: Resident Surveys - Greater Manchester Combined Authority (greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk)
Article Published: 29/11/2022 11:16 AM